How to Empty the Recycle Bin

Techwalla may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.

The Recycle Bin stores deleted files until its maximum size is reached, at which point the oldest files are permanently removed. However, you can empty the Recycle Bin at any time to reclaim hard drive space and prevent files from being recovered. You can do this through the Recycle Bin icon on the desktop or in File Explorer, or you could use Windows 8's Disk Clean-up utility. You can also bypass the Recycle Bin when you delete individual files or change the Recycle Bin settings to always permanently delete files.


Emptying the Recycle Bin

Right-click the Recycle Bin icon on the desktop, select "Empty Recycle Bin" and then click "Yes" to confirm deletion. You can also perform this procedure on File Explorer's right pane's Recycle Bin icon, but you may need to enable it first by right-clicking an empty area of the left pane and then selecting "Show All Folders." If you want to see what other space you can recover while emptying the Recycle Bin, open Windows 8's Search screen, search for "clear disk space" and then select "Clear Disk Space by Deleting Unnecessary Files." The resulting Disk Clean-up utility searches for ways to recover disk space and gives you the option to select the Recycle Bin for emptying.


Video of the Day

Bypassing the Recycle Bin

You can bypass the Recycle Bin for individual file deletions by pressing "Shift-Delete." To always bypass the Recycle Bin, right-click the "Recycle Bin" icon and then select "Properties." Click "Don't Move Files to the Recycle Bin..." and then select "Apply." This window also provides the option to reduce the Recycle Bin size so that automatic file deletion begins at a lower total volume.